The first and only time I ever saw one of these converted B-747 -200 series aircraft I could not help but notice how many attena’s the thing had ….
The Aircraft is called the ‘Doomsday’ plane , but in fact it has been used principally for one mission…
To transport the American Sec. of Defense around the world in his travel’s….
As the conduit for the countries President to order any nuclear military action the Sec of Defense has to be reachable anywhere….
Hard questions are being asked as the aircraft approach a half of century in flying time…
This wide-body jumbo jet, tail number 75-1025, is one of four Boeing 747-200s that are custom-made to keep the government operating in the event of an infrastructure-shattering nuclear war. Commonly referred to as the “Doomsday planes,” these E-4B Nightwatch aircraft typically fly the defense secretary or the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff around the world.
And as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens nuclear war over Western allies’ response to his invasion of Ukraine, these flying fallout shelters are more relevant than they’ve been in a generation.
Yet the planes are showing their age. And the replacement, still at least half a decade away, has for years lost out to internal budget battles that tend to favor shiny new fighter jets and bombers.
Even if the replacement program gets all the money the Air Force is requesting this year, the new planes won’t be delivered until 2027, meaning the existing aircraft will need to fly well past their 50th birthday.
It’s a situation that has experts and defense industry advocacy groups on edge.
“[The Air Force and Congress] need to get very real about this recapitalization,” said Douglas Birkey, executive director at Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, “or they will see some very severe risks adopted that shouldn’t be.”…
The Air Force says it wants to take these planes out of the sky within the next 10 years, but it still hasn’t announced what it would replace them with. Golden said to expect a solicitation in the fall, and the fiscal 2023 budget request sets aside $203 million to award contracts next year.
The project is classified, but public documents show the Air Force has released 16 market surveys to industry since December 2020 that suggest the requirements for the program may still be in flux, caught up in a back-and-forth with defense contractors.
Under the replacement program, the Air Force will buy commercial derivative planes, modify them to survive a nuclear blast and add communications systems.
The 747-200 has four engines. If the Air Force decides that the replacement needs four as well to power the communications systems and also allow the aircraft to fly if one engine is damaged, then only one U.S.-made commercial aircraft currently flying meets that need — the Boeing 747-800.
But that plane is becoming a relic, too; in January 2021, Boeing received its final order for the 747-800.
“When this whole thing began, the 747 line was alive,” said Richard Aboulafia, managing director at AeroDynamic Advisory. “Well, there is a problem now because, in fact, it is dying. It’s probably too late to place an order.”
The Air Force will pay dearly for waiting. It didn’t make a large investment while the 747-800 production line was up and running, so it will likely have to buy used aircraft, which adds another layer of complexity and risk to the program….
Against the backdrop, the Air Force continued to delay its search for a replacement while watching the E-4B fleet slowly decay.
Things became so dire to reduce wear and tear that the E-4B is no longer trotted out for travel within the U.S., but only overseas so that the aging aircraft can get much-needed maintenance and upgrades, Golden said.
Although the Air Force plans to launch a formal search this year, there is a real possibility the project may face delays,
Reporters where give a tour of the aircraft a few eeks ago in an effort it would seem to ghet the word ‘out’ on its mission and need for a replacement aircraft …The Air Force IS adamant that the replacement be a extensive costing B-747-800 aircraft , which has 4 engines, which Boeing does Not make anymore…The new Air Force One aircraft where made for a Russian airline that backed out of their deal….Those aircraft are overdue and over budget by a BILLION dollars…Having Boeing NOT consider the two engine 777 aircraft still production is gojnna be intersting for the taxpayers money….
image…An Air Force Nightwatch aircraft with the callsign “GORDO14” is one of America’s four E-4Bs flown by the 595th Command and Control Group at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska…Daniel Woolfolk/Staff/AiorForce Times